Significant changes to Partner Visas in 2019
The Australian Parliament passed the Migration Amendments (Family Violence and Other Measures) Bill 2016 on the 28th November 2018. The government cites the reason for the changes to be the improvement of the management of family violence in the delivery of the family visa program and the protection of visa applicants.
This paved the way for a new sponsorship framework for partner visas. It created a new two-step application process that involves an assessment of the sponsor and once approved then a visa application can be lodged.
Part of the criteria for a partner visa requires that an applicant be sponsored by an Australian citizen, Australian permanent resident or an eligible New Zealand citizen. The visa applicant makes an application followed by the sponsor application to the Department of Home Affairs.
Lodging a partner visa whilst in Australia will allow the visa applicant to obtain a bridging visa which will allow the applicant to remain in Australia until a decision is made on their partner application.
The new bill will require that the sponsorship application be submitted first, and have it approved before the partner visa is lodged. It could also mean that there will be an additional application fee, making the already expensive Partner visa application process even more expensive.
It is unclear how long it will take for a decision on the sponsorship application to be made before a partner visa application can be lodged. Current processing times for a partner visa are approximately 12 to 18 months.
Impact of changes
The changes will mean that the visa applicant will have to wait until the sponsorship is approved before being eligible to apply for a partner visa and therefore eligible to be granted a bridging visa.
Partner visa applicants in Australia with limited time before their current visa expires will have to lodge another visa application to allow them to remain in Australia or depart Australia until their partner visa application has been granted.
When does this take effect?
There is no commencement date yet but it could happen at any time.
We urge anyone who has been thinking of applying for a partner visa to seek urgent advice on their eligibility to apply for a Partner visa as soon as possible.
Heenan & Browne Visa and Migration Services has significant experience of the partner application process and can deal with any difficult issues that may arise when applying for a visa. Please contact our office to discuss your options.